By The Way : Matt Monro©2005JCMarion


Matt Monro was born in 1930 as Terry Parsons. After a tough early childhood that included the death of his father when he was three years old, Parsons became a tank instructor for the the British army stationed in Hong Kong. It was here in the late nineteen forties that Parsons began to present his vocal talents. After winning a number of local talent shows in Hong Kong, Parsons actually had a short lived radio program in the then British Protectorate called appropriately enough, "Terry Parsons Sings". After his time in the army was complete Parsons returned to London to try and make a career out of his vocal talents. At first there was very little to encourage him on his intended vocation, and to support himself he took on a varied number of odd and part time jobs in and around the musical center of London in those years, Denmark Street.

His first break in the business was provided by Winifred Atwell who became famous in England for her million selling records "Black And White Rag", "Let's Have A Party", and "Let's Have Another Party" in the early fifties (The first British artist to score three gold records). She recommended that Decca Records sign the untested singer. She was also the one who is credited with changing the name of Parsons to Matt Monro. Atwell also featured Monro on her television show. Record producer George Martin (yes that George Martin who worked with The Beatles) had Monro make a demo of Frank Sinatra-like tunes for a projected Peter Sellers LP album. It was so well received that it was released under the name Fred Flange. Martin then had Monro signed to British Parlophone Records working with top arrangers such as Johnny Spence. This led to a number of good sellers in the U.K. for the Parlophone label that in the early sixties was moving away from concentrating on comedy discs to present the best of British popular music (The Beatles would soon follow on the label with George Martin). Good sellers for Monro during this time started with his first recording for Parlophone - "Love Walked In" / "I'll Know Her" (# 4638) in 1960. A number of hit records followed including"Portrait Of My Love" / "You're The Top Of My Hit Parade" (# 4714), "My Kind Of Girl" / "This Time" (# 4755), "Can This Be Love?" / "Why Not Now?" (# 4775),"Gonna Build A Mountain" / ""I'll Dream Of You" (#4819), , "Softly As I Leave You" / "Is There Anything I Can Do?" (# 4868), "When Love Comes Along" / "Tahiti" (# 4911), "My Love And Devotion" / "By The Way" (# 4954), "From Russia With Love" / "Here And Now" (# 5068), "Softly" / "I Love You Too" (# 5150), "Walk Away" / "Around The World" (# 5171), "For Mama" / "Going Places" (# 5215), "Without You" / "Start Living" (# 5251, and "Yesterday" / "Just Yesterday" on ( #5348). In the United States, Monro had two of his recordings make the best seller charts. "My Kind Of Girl" issued in the U.S. on the Warwick label ( # 636) in the spring of 1961 was a solid hit getting well into the top twenty sellers in the country, and remaining on the charts for two and a half months, while "Walk Away" issued on the Liberty label ( # 55745) in late 1964 was a top twenty five seller and charted for more than a month. During the first seven years of the decade of the nineteen sixties Monro recorded almost twenty singles, a number of 45 EP's, and four LP albums for Parlophone.

In 1967 Capitol Records in the United States signed on Monro partially as mainstream pop vocalist to fill the void left on that label with the untimely death of Nat Cole. Some of his featured recordings for Capitol included "Born Free" (Capitol # 15436), "Honey On The Vine (# 15448), "Pretty Polly" (# 15518), "Southern Star" (# 15597) and "Just A Heartbreak Ago" / "Picking Up The Pieces" (# 15628). Also on Monro's recordings for Capitol were the songs "Come Back To Me", "If There Ever Is A Next Time", and "Only The Night Wind Knows". He recorded fine music for Capitol, but by the late sixties single recordings by mainstream pop vocalists were not the stuff of success and so he began to concentrate of LP albums.

He spent most of the early seventies in the U.S. where although his record sales were not successful, he made many appearances at clubs and theaters. He returned to England and reunited with George Martin and recorded a number of songs for EMI. One of these was a moderate hit for Matt in 1973 - "And You Smiled" / "There Ya Go" on EMI # 2091. Another interesting recording by Monro for EMI came in 1980 with the song "Theme From The Sea Wolves". He was a regular performer on British television for a number of years until the early eighties when health problems affected his career. He suffered from liver disease and eventually passed away in London in February of 1985 at the age of 54. He had continued performing almost until the end.

Although the popularity of Monro is outside the usual time frame of this publication, he is included because he carried on the style of the music of the Interlude Era into the teeth of the worldwide rock explosion. Matt Monro was much more than his press given gimmick nickname - the "British Sinatra". He was a compelling and talented voice that kept alive the standard set by the original Sinatra, along with Tony Bennett, Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, and all the other post war romantic balladeers. His music lives on today with a number of compilation CD's and reissues of his work from the Parlophone, Capitol, and EMI days. And there is also the family talents presented by Matt Monro Junior keeping the name alive on stages and clubs throughout Great Britain. This is reason enough to celebrate the memory of a great vocalist and enjoy his music once again.

There are many CDs by Matt Monro available which is fortunate for music listeners everywhere. As usual be aware that many of the collections duplicate songs on many of the CDs. The most complete CD is called "A Singer's Singer" from EMI in 2004 which contains 99 tracks on 4 discs along with a 64 page book in words and pictures about the life and career of the vocalist. Less extensive is "Songs Of Love" from EMI with 54 tracks from the years 1960-1980. A good single disc collection is "Original Gold" on the label with that name from 1999. There are a number of re-mastered original LP's packaged two on a CD, that serve as a good retrospective of his work. "This Is The Life" and "Here's To My Lady" from EMI are two Capitol LPs from 1966 and 1967; "These Years" and "The Late Late Show" on EMI originally on Capitol in 1968; "Walk Away" and "Invitation To The Movies" from the same period is on Collectables; and "For The Present" and "The Other Side Of The Stars" from EMI are two LPs from the mid seventies. There are two label specific collections from Musicrama - "The Capitol Years" and "The EMI Years", and finally carrying on the name is "Matt Sings Monro" by Matt Monro Jr. on Phantom which may be of interest.

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